When some people think about noise as a genre, they think of harsh noise. But this show was somewhere else on the spectrum. Using samples, guitar, processed vocals, theremin and beats, Tom Smith and Mark Morgan, performing as T/SMM, created an immersive environment with their own musical language, enhanced by visual accompaniment. Not unlike Pere Ubu circa Dubhousing or early Chrome, but even more abstract, T/SMM had songs that followed their own musical logic.
When T/SMM closed out the night, it felt almost like an arty punk show, because it wasn't just a lot of knob fiddling. The duo asked that the lights be turned off, which is just as well, because the projections provided ample illumination. Morgan's guitar work sounded more like synth except that he had more fine-tuned control over the tonal range because of the way his finger interacted physically with the strings. Both he and Smith used various vocal sounds to transform their voices into another instrument. Some pop artists use a vocoder to give an alien twist to their vocals. T/SMM used the vocoder to create texture.
The set lasted half an hour, tops, but in that time, T/SMM showed how noise can have a compositional element, rather than chaos to shred an audience's eardrums. With not very many noise shows happening in Denver of late, getting to see that sort of thing done in a way that could be enjoyed by people other than noise-niks was a great reminder that this seemingly forbidding genre could earn an audience among people who have come around to melodic ambient music.
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If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.
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